Logbook of The World Updates

Log of The WorldComplaining, apparently, helps.

After several ARRL directors complained about Log of The World issues, some work got done. Here are the improvements to the Log of The World web site and program:

1. An LoTW user’s corner with quick links to log onto your account, save or renew a certificate and address PC failure.

2. The GET STARTED section has been simplified with links for each of the four steps in the certificate process.

3. LoTW instructions are available in nine foreign languages. These links have always been available but now we have moved them up front to the GET STARTED page.  The languages are identified with icons of flags the nation for each language.

4. The GET STARTED (PDF) file has been updated to include new screen shots and refinement of some of the processes.

5. The software download section now consists of only three icons representing the three operating systems for which software is available. (Windows, Mac, Linux)  The user simply selects their operating system and they are redirected to the download only for their system.

6. A new link has been added for QSL Manager, Club Calls and DXpeditions. This link gives details on establishing account for these special operations and includes a section for 1×1 call signs.

7. A new PowerPoint overview is now available from the LoTW site. This PowerPoint has also been added to our multimedia library. The program is an overview of LoTW and what users can expect from the service.  There are screen shots to explain what the people are viewing and a condensed version of the certificate process as well as the award application process.

Through the efforts of Dave Patton and Jon Bloom, we have also added an automated results table on the Logbook Users Home Page that lists members who have achieved the Triple Play Award in numeric order.

The ARRL is committed to improving the hobby through technology. One of the ways to do so is improve the experience for existing hams. These improvements help that experience.

Hat tip: Dick, W9GIG, the Director for the Central Division posting in the Society of Midwest Contesters e-mail reflector.

How much identification for awards is enough?

Logbook of The World

In an announcement, CQ Magazine is now stating they are accepting eQSL cards for their award program. That’s their choice.

What is interesting is that the announcement has stirred up the whole issue of what identification is needed to prove you are an authentic ham radio operator. And you are who you say you are.

The ARRL sponsored Logbook of The World program (and I participate in this program) requires US hams to get their access via the postal service. US hams submit their request with their call sign and the ARRL sends the confirmations needed to the FCC listed mailing address. If you are not current with the FCC database, your in trouble with the FCC and your confirmation won’t get sent to the right place.

The ARRL, for US hams, considers this proof that you are who you say you are.

For hams outside the US, both a copy of your amateur radio license and another form of government issued identification (passport, drivers license) must be mailed via the postal service to the ARRL.

While hams in the US may not think this is a big deal, sending two government issued documents through the postal service is, at best, risky. Personally, I’d be unwilling to send two valuable forms of government documents through the postal service in Russia, or China — or the US.

Identity theft is a rampant problem. The best way to prevent identity theft is to not offer government issued documents out to the world. Even though the ARRL says that it will destroy the documents once they issue the LoTW confirmations (and I believe them), the first rule is to not put temptation in front of someone in the first place. Or any place along the long postal service trail that these documents would travel — and opened.

I have no issues with the requirements for documenting a DXpedition — it is a choice the operators made to go there and they need to show they landed and operated so it is valid for the award (and most DXpeditions simply require a copy of the operating license — not proof that you are who you say you are).

But for simply submitting a log to an electronic database that will confirm contacts for a paper award?

What is personally interesting to me is how focused hams are on fraud in the hobby. That people will cheat to get a paper certificate they can hang on the wall. There is more regulation in ham radio for awards than there is for investment firms on Wall Street.

We’re a rules-based community and we’re always examining everything in relation to the rules and whether the rules can be violated or are being violated or you can cheat because the rules don’t cover every aspect of every thing we’re looking at.

I’m not saying the ARRL is incorrect in what they require for Logbook of The World. It’s their program and it is used for their convenience for their awards. But if participation is an issue, they should look at their requirements for submitting logs and see if government issued identification to prove you are who you are is limiting non-US hams from participating at a rate that would make the whole program better.

How much identification is enough for submitting logs to Logbook of The World?

Contesting from OZ1ADL

A five minute video.


Hat tip to the SMC reflector and K9ZO

Don’t know contest exchange? You are an idiot!

FinishAfter virtually every contest, the e-mail reflectors light up with posts about the stupidity of contesters (usually new) who do not understand the exchange. Or the exact, best way to format the exchange to maximize every second of the expert contester’s time to achieve a winning score.

The e-mails range from quietly supportive to out-and-out elitist, as if our new contesters need to figure it all out before the contest and perform at the 10,000,o0o point level right now. Or else they aren’t good hams.

We’re an exclusionary hobby

The great feature about ham radio as a hobby is that there are many different segments for the hobby. Bored with SSB? Try CW. CW drive you crazy? Try DXing.

But in each of our little segments of the hobby, we build our own little walls. You want to be a CW contester? This is what you need to do. Do it any other way and you are outcast.

SSB? You do it this way or you aren’t a real man…er, woman…er, contester.

We don’t need exclusiveness, we need inclusiveness

There are enough challenges to the hobby without beating our own members as not being perfect enough to get everything right the first time. There is a difference between pounding on people and constructive criticism in a contest.

When we, as a hobby, take up pounding on people as not being ethical, smart, or not doing the exchange correctly — and therefore are idiots — we defend the status quo and don’t embrace those who are trying to learn. Instead of being Elmers, we become elbows pushing ourselves to the front of “I’m right, your wrong, so get over it.”

The next time you want to go over the top about how people are contesting, think about when you started. Did you know the exchange? Did you know how to contest? Even if you had an Elmer, did you do everything right the first time? Never experienced ONE frustrating moment when you couldn’t get it right? Never felt shamed when someone flamed you for being a dunce because you didn’t know everything to do in the heat of battle?

If you did, you’re a genius. If your like the rest of humanity, give your fellow hams a break. We’re all in this together, we all need to learn, and we all need to use the spectrum in order to protect it. Exclusivity for your part of the hobby is a poor way to encourage growth of ham radio. But it’s a great way to push away hams and potential hams from the hobby we love.

NCJ and ARRL Needs to Fix Subscriptions

National Contest JournalA few weeks ago, I got a note in the mail from the National Contest Journal asking me to renew my subscription. The problem is: I already did.

Right at the bottom of the original renewal notice, it says you can renew online. And I did. I also got the confirming renewal e-mail three weeks before from the ARRL that I was again getting notice for.

Now, most published magazines use some kind of service to take care of subscriptions. And the ARRL and NCJ are not the only ones who don’t get databases updated in a timely manner. I have a whole “magazine subscriptions” note in Outlook that just has the expiration dates for the subscriptions because the magazines send out renewal notices one month after you’ve subscribed.

But if money is tight and the League makes money on publications, why is it so hard to synch the databases so that when I renew online I don’t get the paper, envelope, stamp, and time spent on a renewal notice in the mail three weeks later?

If the League is serious about using technology, here’s one to implement that will give you some money to serve hams instead of magazine subscriptions services.

Would your government give you a permit for this tower?

OH8X 160/80 Tower and AntennasI really love the hams from OH. They think big, think tall, and look for the most out of their antennas. Since they get hit too often with all that aurora stuff, they try and compensate with bigger, stronger, and better antennas.

If you are in a low point of the solar cycle, build bigger and better antennas for the lowbands.

Like this announcement from OH8X:

It’s well known that the bigger and higher the antenna, the better results you’ll get. The new 3-element 160m antenna at OH8X must be about as big as you can get. Look out for a strong signal from them during 2009.The new antenna for the 160m Amateur Radio band was completed just in time for Christmas on 24th December after OH8SR and OH6RM had spent three weeks installing it.The Arcala Extremes station OH8X is located at Arkala 65.18N, 26.24E.

The specs? 100 meter tall tower (not feet, but meters). 60 meter booms for both 80 and 160 meters. and five 80-meter full size elements.

You can see the picture on the Facebook site.

Would your local government provide you permits to put up this antenna support structure?

Me neither. But it sure looks nice!

New Hosting Company for K9JY.com

Hosting CompanyOutside of taking a break from writing as much during the holidays, I have given the posting a break because of a problem: my previous hosting company has become steadily unreliable.

This unreliable service translates to readers as “500 Internal Server Error” messages, long load times, “Hello, World” postings, and — my favorite — presenting an “install WordPress” option as the home page. This allows anyone on the planet to not only overwrite my version of the software on the system, it gives them access to the entire site! Wonderful!

And clearly unacceptable. While fixing issues on the phone with them went quickly, there were no answers as to causes nor steps that needed to take to prevent problems going forward.When your hosting company’s phone number is on your “favorites” list on your iPhone, your hosting company is a problem.

I had already complained about the reliability and they had moved my sites to a different, not as populated, server. For a time, conditions improved, but then steadily declined as more traffic came online. The server, in a reverse IP search, had almost 1900 sites on it, including K9JY.com.

So last week was a lot of research into hosting companies. My criteria was for reliability of the sites being presented to users, phone support (e-mail support and forum support suck when all your sites are down — like on Christmas Day when all of mine were), and a commitment to not stuff your server with every Tom, Dick and Harry on the planet and call it good.

I think I found a good company to work with that meet this criteria. They are more expensive, but not that much more considering a business is being run here. I moved all of the sites this past Monday. There were the usual couple of hiccups with permissions and a couple minor issues that were resolved by Tuesday morning. Really smooth, by most standards.

You should see some return to normalcy in access. Plus, so far, the site has been operating much faster.

Infrastructure, for all you tech types out there, should be a seamless service that is up and running 100% of the time (save maintenance windows). When you run a global company as Cube Rules, LLC, is, even if it is a small company, we need the reliability so when someone logs in from the United States or Singapore (and they do), the infrastructure will be there to serve them.

We’ll see how this hosting company does. So far, so good. But just like most services, your record is renewed every day so the service needs to work every day.

Sounds just like a job, doesn’t it?

The effect of ice on antennas

Aglow in the SnowEngineering can only take us so far. Mother Nature knows all about engineering and creates havoc with the best sites and the most careful owners.

Take out the power and one is left with generators and a mess.

K1TTT’s great site is an example of excellent engineering meeting the power of Mother Nature. David’s documented it on his web site. Well worth the look.

David — best to you in getting it all back together. What a ton of work.

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